By Katie Campos, Executive Director of Buffalo ReformED:
Buffalo’s 17 charter schools (educating nearly 20% of the public school population) collaborated with the Buffalo School Board and won a huge victory for Buffalo’s charter school students yesterday. The national community of education reformers and charter school supporters, made up of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, DoneWaiting.org, the New York Charter Schools Association and locally, Buffalo ReformED created a critical mass to encourage and support the Buffalo School Board to restore funding to Buffalo’s charter schools.
Buffalo Schools Superintendent, Dr. Williams and his staff have “processed and signed” the $5.5 million owed to local charter schools since the funding freeze expired in July 2010, and charter schools will receive those payments on January 7, 2011.
The infamous “funding freeze” has plagued school districts in New York that have charter schools, and were, until now, opposed to charter schools. In 2008, the New York state legislature voted to freeze payments to charter schools, which already received about 2/3 of the per-pupil state aid that their local school districts receive. The funding formula is messy, and the point is that charter schools in New York receive much less funding, have to pay for their buildings (unlike the district schools) and are held to a higher standard of academic achievement. The freeze was hurting these schools, with a dooming future of closing them down.
The funding freeze expired in July 2010, and many of the traditional school districts in New York were pushing for the state to restore the funding freeze to cut charter school payments. The state did not restore the funding freeze, and charter schools have been expecting payments since July 2010. The Buffalo School District refused to pay charter schools at the higher, unfrozen amount citing “the Albany hierarchy” as an authority that assured them the funding freeze would be restored; it wasn’t and “the Albany hierarchy” was never identified.
A month ago, School Board President, Ralph Hernandez and Chris Jacobs resolved to pursue the funding issue and ensure that the school board acts in accordance with the law and restore the $5.5 million owed to local charter schools since July 2010. The national community of charter schools and education reformers from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and donewaiting.org stepped up to support President Hernandez and school board member Hernandez and sent letters urging the district to thaw the illegal funding freeze.
At the December 15th school board meeting, Lou Petrucci recognized the thoroughness and graciousness of the charter school community in pursuing this issue. Julie Jackson Forsberg, school leader at Oracle Charter School thanked the school board for the $5.5 million in restorative funds to charter schools and also noted that she was encouraged by this collaboration and looks forward to the progress that will result from working together to improve the quality of public education for ALL of Buffalo’s students. Dr. Williams declared that this new partnership with the education reform community will ultimately benefit all of Buffalo’s students, and that we will meet “again and again and again” to resolve many issues, such as equitable funding.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, as well as DoneWaiting.org teamed up with Buffalo ReformED and the New York Charter Schools Association to collaborate with the Buffalo School Board, specifically Hernandez and Jacobs, and in doing so, won a huge victory for Buffalo’s charter schools. This is a victory for collaboration and progress for the education reform community and Buffalo’s Public Schools.